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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

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94                                 LIFE  OF
sliows liow vegetable geograplxy stands in closest
relation to the life of plants and the study of climate,
.—how the number, the form, and the local distribu-
tion of plants, must differ according to tho universal
laws of the different, from the pole to tlie
equate!, from the depth of the mines and the bottom
of the sea to the mountain-tops of eternal snow,
according to the geographical latitude of the locality.,
and the constitution of the surrouixding landscapes.
This work may truly be said to have opened a new
sphere in the science of botany : for tho first time tho
relation of the medium temperature of a place to the
atmospheric pressure, and the humidity and electric
tension of the atmosphere, is explained, and that by
his own measurements and investigations. To this
work is added that beautiful picture of a vegetable
fsography of the tropics, the so-called ce Tableau deg
lantes  ^quinoxiales/" from tho level of the sea to a
height  of five thousand metres, in which Humbolclt
gives a clever, aesthetic, but, at the same time, strictly
scientific and pleasing picture of the vegetable world,*
* Vegetable geography is a now branch of botany really fouxulod
by Humboldt. After he had instituted the most comprehensive in-
vestigations into the lawfcs of the distribution of plants, and shown
their intimate connexion with the conditions of height and climate,
and the chief points of a nximerical calculation of the local distribu-
tion of plants over the earth, he formed a basis for this branch of
natural science, "whose development by himself and others lian at-
tained such a, degree of completion, that it has not beeu without con-
siderable influence on the civilization of nations. His writing's on
this subject, and the excellent illustrations accompanying them, con-
tain an accurate distinction between the characteristics of tho various
forms of plants in the warmer regions. His description of tho moun-
tain Flora, rising- terrace-like upwards, as well as of tho social and
the solitary plants^ excited such a lively interest among" all oducattKl
men, far beyond the bounds of merely scientific circles, that wo must
give a short sketch of his system. . What would be a landseaŁ>o "with-
out plants 1 They alone refresh and vivify, and thun they are the
companions of man. But to describe their geography, owe must Tbo
susceptible to their existence. Hunxbolclt was ao to a high clagrea j
and this we may recognise, not alone from his classification of tha
varieties of plants, from his doctrine of the distribution of plants from
the equator to the poles, and from tho level of tho sea to the boxuv*
daries of eternal snow, but more especially from his ** Physiognomy
of Plants/' which reveals the intimate conformity of hia